Scouts On Scouting, Part 4: Makeup

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 1: Hitting

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 2: Pitching

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 3: Defense

See Also: Scouts On Scouting, part 5: Their Job

In addition to talking with scouts all year about players, I also spent the year asking scouts about their job. Scouts are the backbone of any major league team, but there isn’t a lot of information out there about what they’re looking for, what they’re doing and how they do their job. So, I asked several scouts about their job this year about their jobs to pass along the information to our readers, whether they’re players, parents, coaches or just fans. Here is part four, on makeup. . .

How much does makeup and character factor in with regard to a player’s tools?

“Makeup is the utmost . . . I know with our team, it’s a major criteria, a major category. We’ll actually take guys off our draft board if we think he’s a bad-makeup guy or a bad-character type. You better have some reasons why, you better know the kid and pound the table and say ‘This is why I know this,’ but [our GM] doesn’t care if he’s the first pick in the draft, if he’s a bad kid, we’re not taking him. It’s really vital and really hard to know, especially with the high school kids. They’re so nice to us, and the dads are so nice to us. Even psycho dad is nice to us because he thinks we can do something for his kid. Now, if we don’t draft his kid, then he screws us. But, when you go in the home and you’re talking with them or whatever, your experience kind of tells you and your gut comes into play. You can get fooled, but what I try and do is talk to everybody I can—high school coach, summer league coach, maybe another kid I know that knows him. Not just asking, ‘Tell me if the kid is a good kid,’ but conversations with as many people and make a judgment based on all of that and what you see. Because even the coaches that I’m real good friends with, they’re never going to tell me, ‘That kid’s a total turd.’ But they also won’t ever tell me a kid’s a great kid unless they believe they really are a great kid. If they give me the old, ‘He’s OK,’ that’s his way of saying, ‘Ugh . . . ‘ You’ve got to read between the lines sometimes.”

—A National League area scout

“It’s tremendously important. These kids, particularly at the high school level, they’re all big fish in small ponds. Not a whole lot of them have failed to any significant degree and they’re all going to fail in pro ball at some level. Every single guy out there. Every guy, whatever the story is behind them, is going to hit a tough spot and you want to see how he’s going to deal with adversity, so hopefully you do see him in some sort of spot in a game where you can figure out if he’s going to rise to it or if he’s going to shrink from the moment. You see how the guy interacts with his teammates and you talk to his coaches to see what kind of work ethic the player has. Everyone has to get better when they get to pro ball because the competition is so much better. If they’re not going to dedicate themselves to it and if they’re not going to be able to handle failure, then it’s probably going to be a losing proposition for them.”

—A National League area scout

“Makeup is absolutely critical. If you’ve got a bad employee with bad makeup or a bad attitude or is lazy or is non-competitive in a competitive industry, they’re just not going to make it. No chance. Whereas, if you’ve got a guy and you have to back them off and tell them, ‘Hey dude, I know you just played until October 16 in instructional league your first year. You can take a month off. You need to rest your body.’ That’s a better problem to have than calling a guy up and he’s been surfing in Southern Cal for two or three months and shows up out of shape at spring training. Makeup is absolutely critical and a lot of that has to do with how they grow up and how they were raised. We see a lot of rich kids and kids that have been pampered their entire lives that don’t know how to work hard. They don’t know what to do because they’re playing XBox or they’re driving the Mercedes or whatever. Whereas you’ll see a kid maybe from a little bit rougher background or not-as-an-affluent background that maybe had to grind a little more. Makeup is absolutely critical. Where would it not be critical—whether you’re a lazy piece of crap working at Burger King or you’re a lazy lawyer, or you’re scared to go out and make a sale for your vacuum company, do you see what I’m saying? Baseball’s hard enough, but let’s take it one step further: Screw baseball. Life is hard enough. Makeup is the separator between two guys with the same talent, or maybe the guy that’s got a little more talent but the bad makeup. You may have guys in the big leagues that are bad teammates or jerks or say the wrong thing, but they have massive passion for baseball and they’re machines—they work their asses off.”

—An American League area scout

“It’s unbelievably important. You can see makeup a little bit on the field, but you really get the makeup of a player when you have the one-on-one contact. In my opinion, makeup is huge. The makeup on a player is what I think is going to let the player achieve the highest level he can with the tools that he has. If the player has outstanding makeup, outstanding work ethic, he’s intelligent, he has the ability to retain what’s being taught to him, that’s going to allow him to use his tools and get the most out of his ability. They’ve got to be able to learn, they’ve got to be able to want to learn, they’ve got to be able to adjust. Because once they get into the minor leagues, it’s a game of adjustments. Being taught a mechanic, or a defensive play, or a hitting strategy, or looking for a pitch in a certain spot, or a pitcher trying to throw the correct pitch in a certain situation to attack a player’s weakness—all minor league coaches will teach that, but it’s up to the player to retain it and apply it between the lines. The good makeup kids will be able to do that and it goes along with what kind of student is he. The amateur players, is he a good student or a poor student? Obviously the good students, you’d think they’d have a better tendency to retain instruction better than the poor ones. Obviously there’s always exceptions, but the good students, from a scouting perspective, are going to be able to retain instruction and figure it out.”

—An American League area scout

“It’s huge. For me, if your name’s going on a kid, you don’t want that phone call from your organization that something bad happened. You’ve got to find out his makeup, you’ve got to find out his character. It all goes into the whole process of grading him out, too. If he’s got a great makeup and great character, you’re going to like the kid and you’re going to believe he’s going to succeed. If you’ve got a kid that’s just OK, but he has bad makeup and bad character, well I’m out. I can’t afford to have my name associated with a bad makeup kid or a bad character kid.

“It is like a job interview. I go to the games when he doesn’t know I’m there. I watch every move that he makes before the game and I watch him after the game. I watch how he interacts with the players, I watch how he interacts with his family, I watch how he interacts with the opposing fans and the opposing team. It’s from A to Z trying to find this out—and that’s multiple times. You’ve got to dig, dig, dig and not only talk to the kid. In your job interview, you’ve got your resume and you’ve got your five references—I’m not calling those references. Because, look, those references are only going to say good things. I’m going to go talk to the bus driver, I’m going to go talk to the cafeteria lady, I’m going to talk to the janitor—the people who are around the kid the most but have no horse in the race and find out exactly what this kid is all about. You can talk to the coach, but a lot of times the coach doesn’t want to hammer the kid, so you’ve got to find other ways to find out who this kid really is.”

—A National League area scout